18 July 2018
Easier way to change oil
I have had my oil changed by the dealer, a local mechanic and even those Jiffy people. They’ve all done a good job, but I like changing my own oil. It’s a bit of a meditative exercise and gives me a chance to see what’s going on with my car. While I enjoy doing the oil change, my least favorite part of changing my oil is getting underneath the car, removing the drain plug and draining the oil. Dealing with the jack, stripping the drain plug every now and again, and spilling the used oil were nearly enough to stop me from changing my oil.
A friend of mine recently had his car serviced at a local dealership and he told me about a new machine that they used to drain the oil without jacking the car or removing the drain plug. The oil change technician inserted a probe into the dipstick tube and used a vacuum to drain the oil. This sounded very interesting and encouraged me to research more about this system and see if it was small enough to be used at home.
My research revealed that there were a number of these systems available for the do-it-yourselfer. After I compared features of the different brands, I settled on the Topsider. Originally designed for the boating market, the Topsider is all-metal. This feature was the one that seemed most important to me. The majority of other vacuum oil changers were made of plastic and I was concerned that the plastic would become brittle over time.
Changing the oil is really simple:
1. Make sure the engine is warm to make the oil flow easily
2. Place tube in dipstick tube
3. Close pinch valve on hose
4. Pump the canister 50 times to build vacuum
5. Release the pinch valve
It takes about 8 minutes for the oil to leave your engine. I usually use this time to remove the oil filter, open oil bottles, etc. Most dipsticks reach all the way to the bottom of the oil pan. I push the hose til I feel the bottom of the pan. When I first got it, I would open my drain plug after vacuuming and very little came out (a few drops) so I suspect the vacuum gets most of the oil out. It will pull sludge out as well up through the tube. The can holds 2 gallons of oil. Once the oil is out of your car you can remove the vacuum pump and suction tube and seal the container for transport to your recycling center.
I think the clincher for me was discovering that this was the technique that Mercedes was using in its dealerships (albeit using a commercial machine).07/18/18
(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2006 — editors)
17 July 2018
Outdoor TV watching setup
Some time ago we ended up with a 26″ flat screen TV from some giveaway deal. It’s no great thing but it doesn’t suck either, and we had no idea what to do with it. It was an off & on puzzle for a while… All the flat screens these days have hardware in their backs for mounting. I found this simple stand on Amazon ($57), added a Roku stick and a flat HD antenna to the TV and put the whole mess out on the patio. Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube & Broadcast outside. Party, friends or just us, it’s a good addition. The mount is heavy enough that it’d be hard to blow it over (but not impossible, I guess). A thick contractor’s trash bag slips right over the whole thing to keep the weather off. We keep the remotes in a Ziploc on the table out there. Recently added is a Bluetooth transmitter so the TV’s speakers don’t irritate my noise-sensitive neighbors and a Bluetooth speaker sits near us. (This TV has two USB power sockets and the Roku, BT & antenna each want a little bit of juice. A USB power splitter happily keeps all three going – YMMV. Just one AC power cord in use here.) A few weeks ago I made a pass through a bunch of local pawn shops and saw more than a few smaller TVs looking for a home. Found another Roku at one too. You can add a similar setup to your patio/deck for a relatively small investment too. And it’s easy to put away at the end of the season.07/17/18
17 July 2018
Wall wart solution
This indoor/outdoor 5-outlet adapter ($13) is the best I’ve found for dealing with multiple wall-warts. The outlets are spaced just far enough apart to allow virtually any size wall wart to fit, and you can chain together the adapters (each outlet has five outlets, so every additional one in the chain gives you four more outlets). It’s cheaper than specialty adapters like the PowerSquid, and it’s inherently more organized. If you chain a couple PowerSquids together, you’ve got a mess of extra cords on account of that model’s ‘tentacle’ design. If you daisy chain two Yellow-Jackets together, you’ve got a tidier package.
(This is a Cool Tools Favorite from 2007 — editors)
17 July 2018
Our tool picks for electronics hobbyists
Heat Shrink Tube Assortment (Note: The specific product shown in this video is no longer available from Amazon. The link here is to a comparable, highly-rated heat shrink assortment.)07/17/18
(Cool Tools has a YouTube channel with many more tool reviews — editors)
17 July 2018
Everyday carry all around convenient small sharp thing
I’ve been using various models of the Chive ($29) for 6+ years. It’s perfect for how I use it — everyday carry all around convenient small sharp thing. It has a small (~2″) 420HC blade, light, spring-assisted assisted opening (with a small flipper) and stainless steel so I can run it under hot water or otherwise clean and wash it with less concern about rust. The steel is a a big deal for me. Other small folders I’ve used have relatively softer blade steel, whereas the 420HC is a nice balance between holding an edge and easy to sharpen.
The Chive will not replace a large folder, but that’s not how I use it. I remove the attached pocket clip and drop it in my pocket, where it disappears. I really like the solid (frame) blade lock, and it also has a small lock to keep the blade closed in your pocket — said lock having an adjustable tension screw that stays “adjusted.” I like the profile of the blade, with a small curve, and I use it constantly.
I realize the preceding sounds like a list of features, but those are the features that are important to me that I want in a small folder and that the Chive gets just right. The are lots of different finishes available – polish, colors, edge serrations. It has an MSRP of $69.99, but the street price for the basic model ranges form $24 – $40 depending on the seller. I have 5 (I think – maybe 6), varying in use from hard use (funny to say about a 2″ blade, but there it is) to a couple that I keep very sharp for selective use and one “dressy” or “barbecue” version in high polish stainless.07/17/18
16 July 2018
Robust kitchen thermometer
Cooking thermometers used to be a kitchen consumable. They barely lasted a year, so I would buy the cheapest one and suffer when it broke during a boil. The biggest problem was probe loss from liquid or cord damage. Got the ChefAlarm as a gift four years ago and have never looked back. This review involves the optional, submersible probe.
I cook a lot. Not just frequently, but lots of ways and lots of different items: Smoking, grilling, sous vide, stove top, oven, brewing beer. Thermometers just did not survive for long. The ChefAlarm has worked for everything. Ever want to start a pot and be able to walk away until just before it boils over? Throw in the probe, set the ChefAlarm for 208F and you will have plenty of time to turn down the heat. Ever want know when a pot has cooled enough to add the final ingredient? This gem even has a low temperature alarm. It has a timer, swaps from F to C with a button click and can be calibrated without opening the case (but has never needed it). Batteries last for over a year. The electronics are gasketed, so are splash proof.
It is a one-item kitchen computer. The noise maker on mine stopped working within warranty, so they sent a brand new kit (the whole kit, everything) and did not ask for the old one back. How is that for customer service? It should be purchased directly from the company’s website. No warranty on anything purchased from Amazon, eBay, etc. The only way to find a discount is to click on “Specials” at the top of the site.07/16/18
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